Urban Forests Shrink at Alarming Pace


The country’s urban communities have lost around 36 million trees in the period between 2009 and 2014, according to a study by Department of Agriculture Forest Service released last week.

In a paper titled Declining Urban and Community Tree Cover in the United States, environmental scientists interpreted aerial photos, including classified satellite imagery, of urban areas across the States to find out that tree cover was shrinking at the rate of one percent, or about 175,000 acres per year. Simultaneously, impervious cover such as roads and buildings grew 0.6 percent a year in the same type of areas.

The study says that tree coverage decreased from 42.9 percent to 42.2 percent over the five years in question, which clearly indicates an alarming trend.

The benefits of city forests are numerous and hard to overestimate. The green canopy improves human health by increasing the quality of air we breathe and water we drink, fight air pollution and attenuates the city noise. It is critically important that urban greening also alleviates runoff and flooding.

The study found that 23 states, notably Rhode Island, Georgia, Alabama and Nebraska and Washington, D.C, were experienced the greatest drop in urban forestry. In such states tree coverage over five years dwindled by over one percent.

“Urban forests are an important resource. Urban foresters, planners and decision-makers need to understand trends in urban forests so they can develop and maintain sufficient levels of tree cover – and the accompanying forest benefits – for current and future generations of citizens,” a co-author of the study, Dave Nowak, warned in a press release.

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